Buying or selling a council leasehold property

Buying a council leasehold property

When you buy a flat or maisonette, you do not buy the flat itself, you buy a lease from the landlord. This gives you the right to live in the property for an agreed period of time.

If you buy a council flat the council owns the building (they are the freeholder), and you become a leaseholder.

What is the lease?

The lease is a legal agreement between you, as the leaseholder, and the freeholder who owns the building.

A lease will usually contain details of:

  • how long the lease is for
  • service charges, or other costs you must pay towards maintaining the building and communal areas
  • the property including a plan showing your home, the building it is in, and the estate the building is on
  • any garden, shed or garage included in the sale
  • your rights and responsibilities
  • services provided such as cleaning and lighting of corridors and stairways

Service charges

The costs to maintain the building and grounds around the building are called service charges.

Some of the service charges you may need to pay are:

  • ground rent
  • grounds maintenance and cleaning
  • repairs, services and maintenance costs
  • electricity charges for shared areas
  • administration charges or management fees
  • major structural works and improvements such as replacing roofs – these can cause large service charge bills
  • building insurance - this will not cover your furniture or personal belongings, you must buy your own contents insurance to insure these items 

Extending the lease

A standard lease is 125 years from when the property is first purchased under the Right to Buy.

At the end of the lease period the flat will go back to the council, unless you apply to extend the lease.

Paying the service charge when you buy a leasehold property

We provide details on how much the service charge is and how much has been paid. Any outstanding amounts need to be paid as part of the sale. There may be money owed for the previous year, this will be invoiced to you as the new owner of the property.

We do not get involved in how you agree with the seller to pay the outstanding charges.

Further information on being a leaseholder

The Leasehold Advisory Service (LEASE) provides free advice for leaseholders.